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Trump White House Staff Payroll Nearly $36 Million And Top-Heavy

Chief strategist Steve Bannon and chief of staff Reince Priebus will both make $179,700 this year for their work at the White House, but they aren't the only ones.

A new list of White House staff salaries released by the Trump administration (as required annually by Congress) reveals 22 people make the same top salary. Eighteen more earn $165,000 a year, making the Trump administration's payroll top-heavy compared to the Obama administration.

There are currently 377 White House office staff in the Trump administration, about a hundred fewer than were on the Obama payroll in 2016. And, by way of comparison, coverage of Obama's 2009 report listed 487 staffers in his first year. Trump's total payroll adds up to $35,766,744. That's about $4 million less than Obama's was in 2016, his final year in office.

This staff size may be an indication that Trump prefers a lean headquarters staff at the White House as he did with his campaign. But David Cohen, a professor at the University of Akron whose specialty includes White House staffing, says this is a sign the Trump administration is "having a hard time attracting talent to the staff."

With a scaled-down staff, Cohen said, "it can run. It's running right now, but it's not running particularly well."

With fewer people to carry the load, Cohen added, already difficult and stressful jobs get harder.

"You have new levels of stress that few White House staff have ever had to deal with," said Cohen.

Press secretary Sean Spicer said in an email that the lean staffing was the result of the new administration "trying to give taxpayers the best return" — something the White House is endeavoring to do "throughout all government." Spicer also noted "there is a huge demand for jobs" in the administration.

Helping to contain costs are the three advisers taking no pay at all: the president's daughter, Ivanka Trump; her husband, Jared Kushner; and Reed Cordish, who works on intergovernmental and technology initiatives with Kushner. Gary Cohn who came to the White House from a top job at Goldman Sachs is taking a salary of just $30,000 a year. (That amount, Spicer told NPR, is the minimum that qualifies for benefits.)

As for the people at the top of the pay scale making $179,700, there are several names that will look familiar:

  • Steve Bannon, chief strategist and senior counselor;
  • Thomas Bossert, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism;
  • Kellyanne Conway, assistant to the president and senior counselor;
  • Hope Hicks, director of strategic communications who was his spokeswoman on the campaign and now serves as a gatekeeper to the president;
  • Omarosa Manigault, former Apprentice contestant and director of communications for the Office of Public Liason;
  • K.T. McFarland, deputy national security adviser and former Fox News contributor who was recently nominated ambassador to Singapore;
  • Don McGahn, White House counsel;
  • Stephen Miller, senior adviser for policy;
  • Dina Powell, deputy national security adviser for strategy;
  • Reince Priebus, chief of staff;
  • Daniel Scavino, director of social media; and
  • Sean Spicer, press secretary
  • One person makes more: Mark House, who is on loan from the FAA working on a short-term project, is set to make $187,100 this year.

    Sarah Sanders, the principal deputy press secretary who recently has been conducting most of the White House press briefings, earns $165,000 a year as does Keith Schiller, the director of Oval Office operations who was Trump's longtime bodyguard, and Peter Navarro, director of the president's National Trade Council.

    The median Trump White House office salary is $89,000 compared to a median salary the final year of the Obama administration of $73,051.

    Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.